Kolkata Knight Riders 183 for 4 (Rana 68, Russell 49*, Uthappa 35, Rashid 1-26) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 181 for 3 (Warner 85, Vijay 40*, Bairstow 39, Russell 2-32) by six wickets
This is one of those Twenty20 days. You get a defendable target, you get your tactics right, you squeeze the opposition, but then Andre Russell comes around, hits four sixes and four fours in 19 balls, and without breaking a sweat makes a mockery of everything. The Eden Gardens faithful went into a frenzy as Russell completely destroyed the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling to chase down 53 in the last three overs, the highest that has ever been successfully chased in the last three overs of an IPL match.
This was only the third time - out of 14 - that Sunrisers had failed to defend a total of 180 or above in all IPL. This innings also spoiled a glorious comeback for David Warner - a year to the day his career and his life changed irrevocably because of the ball-tampering scandal. Warner scored 85 off 53 to take Sunrisers to that total on a difficult pitch.
Sunrisers were at the wrong end of the toss - asked to bat first, they had to contend with a slowing-down pitch in the afternoon and then a skiddy one under the lights - but they did most things right in the defence. Except get Russell out, who scored 49 off 19, his impact well above anyone else in the game.
Welcome back, Warner
When Dinesh Karthik won the toss and inserted Sunrisers, one of the most anticipated events of this IPL was upon us immediately. Warner was walking out to open with Jonny Bairstow for company. It turned out to be a long event. It went for close to 13 overs, brought Sunirsers 118 runs, and, as Warner said later, did so despite the pitch becoming difficult to score on.
The early nerves went out as he picked two Piyush Chawla wrong'uns in the second over and picked boundaries. The threat of Sunil Narine was negated as the bowler tried to deny him room but ended up bowling too straight and conceding two boundaries in the sixth over. Kuldeep Yadav, too, couldn't do much against Warner, who take a four and a six in the left-arm wristspinners' first two overs. For most of it, IPL debutant Bairstow took the back seat, giving Warner the strike whenever he could, but in the 13th over he fell trying to hit Chawla out of the park.
At this point, Sunrisers were set for a score close to 200, but two things happened. Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson and Russell found some swing with the old ball, and the pitch also slowed down. Sunrisers struggled to find any power in the final few overs except for Vijay Shankar, who struck 40 off 24 balls to keep Sunrisers par or just above. There was a period when 31 came off 25 during this spell of bowling. Russell walked away with two wickets, but the other two did an important job too.
Knight Riders struggle at the top
Neither Narine nor Kuldeep bowled out his quota. It was possibly because of the late swing Knight Riders had found, but in Narine's case it was also an injured finger when fielding. Consequently he didn't even open the innings. Out came Chris Lynn and Nitish Rana. It wasn't a surprise to see Sunrisers deploy Shakib Al Hasan against Lynn. It wasn't a surprise either that it brought about the dismissal within six balls.
A game of cat and mouse followed. Robin Uthappa and Rana picked the bowlers to go after. Sunrisers delayed the introduction of Rashid because of his record against Uthappa. Uthappa delayed any big shots because he wanted to wait for Rashid. The big shot arrived, he mistimed, and Yusuf Pathan dropped him at long-off. Uthappa added a further 15 off 14, which actually had a negative impact on Knight Riders' score, according to ESPNcricinfo's Luck Index. By the time he got out, Knight Riders needed 95 off 50 balls. The win probability for Knight Riders at this point, according to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, was 28%.
Rashid squeezes Knight Riders further
In the next few overs, apart from a floodlight failure, Rashid sparkled. He got rid of the settle Nitish Rana a ball after the floodlight break, and bowled out at the end of the 16th over with figures of 4-0-26-1. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the captain in Kane Williamson's absence, had two overs left still, and there were 58 runs to defend. Two new batsmen were at the wicket. The likelihood of their winning was above 90% now.
Russell rubbishes data
The problem with data is, it is based on historical events. It doesn't, and cannot, account for freak performances. Which is what makes sport sport. After an excellent 17th over from Bhuvneshwar, Knight Riders still needed 53 to win, a win probability of 3%. It would have needed one mis-hit from Russell to end the game whereas it would take about six sixes to seal it from here. Such a target had never been chased in the last three overs of an IPL match before, and only twice in the history of T20 cricket.
Russell, though, took apart Siddarth Kaul's last over - the 18th - to begin a turnaround. It is arguable perhaps that Bhuvneshwar could have used Shakib for this over and kept Kaul for the 20th, but it wouldn't have been a bad call either way. Russell hit Kaul for two sixes and a four to make it 34 off the last two overs. The win probability still didn't budge much because Bhuvneshwar still had an over left.
Russell demolishes Bhuvneshwar
Bhuvneshwar trusted his Plan A, the yorker, to start off with. He missed the first one a little, and Russell whacked him wide of long-on for four. The next one missed again, and this time Russell cleared midwicket comfortably. The next ball was a near perfect yorker, but Russell still found enough power to beat mid-off for four runs. This was a sensational hit. This can demoralise any bowler. The icing was applied when he reached out to a wide attempted yorker, and eased it over extra cover for six. He didn't even look up to see where it was going. He knew he had done it. Within an over win probability had gone from 5% to over 50%; this is how fast T20 games change.
Shakib bowled the last over with 12 to defend, but youngster Shubman Gill took care of him with two sixes to end the match with two balls to spare.